Ms. Ferguson: Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I rise to give voice and support to the motion “Appointment to the Commission of Enquiry to Investigate the Incidence of Trafficking in Persons in Guyana” standing in my colleague’s name, the Hon. Member and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. David Granger. Like my other colleagues I would like to empathise with the families and relatives of those persons who endured an experience of trafficking in persons. Credit must also be given to the Guyana Women Miners Association for the sterling efforts they are making without any subvention coming from Central Government.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence permit me to give a definition of trafficking in persons, the key concept in the motion. It is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by means of a treat, or use of other means of coercion, or by abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power of a position of vulnerability, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the concept of a person having control over another person for the purposes of exploitation. I must let this Hon. House know that this very definition is enshrined in the Combating Trafficking in Persons Act 2 of 2005.
The motion before this House is relatively a simple one. This is so since it is common to the natural eyes that trafficking in persons in our Nation has been deemed as a scourge. It must be noted that human trafficking is a rapidly expanding phenomenon and is said to have many faces including domestic violence, servitude, forced labour and sexual labour.
In examining the United States Department of State Report for 2011 and 2012 respectively, for trafficking in persons in Guyana I found them both to be wearying even though there is a slight variation between the two reports. They have rated Guyana as tier two and indicated that Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. The report further alluded to the fact that Guyanese women and girls have become vulnerable to prostitution while our children are forced to work in hazardous conditions. Previously reported reference has been made of Guyana’s track record in addressing this issue since the Government of Guyana seems reluctant in adhering fully with the minimum standards set out to eliminate trafficking. However, mention was made of the significant efforts being made.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I must let you, or this Hon. House, know that the Minister of Human Services, the Hon. Jennifer Webster, reported in the Guyana Times dated Friday 7th December, 2012, and this is what the Hon. Minister said:
“Meanwhile Human Services Minister Jennifer Webster who also addressed the opening said the government recognises the need for robust response in this regard. According to her TIP is a key component of the national action plan and steps have been taken to arrest this phenomenal. She further went on to say that in light of this the Government of Guyana and the United Nations Development Fund more or less discussed the issue of trafficking in persons.”
United States Embassy Political and Economic Section Chief Michael Fraser said that Trafficking In Persons (TIP) is a debasement of humanity and the countries social fabric. He went on to say that it distorts markets and impacts legitimate businesses. To this end he said that the injustice of human trafficking, more aptly modern slavery, fuels violence and organised crime. Our work fulfilling the promise of freedom should not be only the pursuit of justice but also the restoring of what was taken away. We should aim not only to put an end to this crime but also to ensure that survivors can move beyond their exploitation and live the lives they choose for themselves according to Mr. Fraser.
What is further revealing in the reports is the continuous rhetoric from higher levels of Government with the aim of minimising the potential scope of human trafficking. Poor results in the area of victim protection and the lack of action against official complicity of human trafficking are major obstacles to future progress.
I do not want to take up much of the Assembly’s time to the other concerns raised in the report. I encourage Hon. Members to familiarise themselves with this report.
I further hasten to say that, most importantly, the reports comprehensively give an assessment of the three “Ps” on trafficking in persons. We would have heard earlier speakers alluding to these three “Ps”: Prevention, Protection and Prosecution. However, the Hon. Member Minister Webster further added a fourth “P”. She said, I think it was Partnership.
Regarding the first two Whereas clauses, they are self-explanatory since it hinges on the Constitution of Guyana and the Trafficking in Person Act, 2005, respectively. However, as it relates to how effective the Act is applied to instances, in my view, it is mind boggling.
The third Whereas clause: There has been credible reports that undermine numbers of persons that have been trafficked, kept involuntary servitude and required to perform forced labour, particularly in the hinterland regions of Guyana, but also elsewhere. I totally concur with this owing to the fact that quite recently there was a report captured in the front page of the Stabroek News, dated Monday, 22nd April, 2013, “Women miners rescue four girls from Puruni Camp” Here, I have the article by the President of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) whereby Ms. Brooms was quoted as saying, this is under Child Labour:
“Brooms and her members had travelled into the area after receiving repeated calls from concern persons who said that some girls were being kept against their will. Immediately, after the capture of these girls, the little one held on to her and started to cry and told her she wanted to leave and said she was only 14 years old and the other one is 18 years old. They told her she wanted to leave too, but ‘how they took away their bags and tell her she can’t go anywhere’.
This is what the young ladies would have reported to Ms. Broomes and her team, that they were more or less held against their will. The report further indicated that the police officer was also implicated. Of more concern to Broomes is the fact the named police officer is implicated in taking the 14 year old into the backdam. The child told the women miners that she had left her home in Northwest to spend the Christmas holidays in Georgetown and it was while she was at her relatives, that the police officer approached her. There are a number of reported cases similar to this one.
The fourth Whereas clause addresses the purpose for conducting a Commission of Inquiry, as provided in Chapter 19:03. My Colleagues and I do support this call, since in our view, as leaders, we owe a duty of responsibility to citizens of this Nation, hence, they must be protected according to the stipulations set out in the Constitution or the principle Act as it relates to a specific issue.
In relation to the first Resolve Clause in the motion, my position on this is that we should develop the political will, set aside petty politics and act in the interest of our people in protecting them from becoming victims or targets towards trafficking in person. Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that the necessary players such as civil society, the religious bodies, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) and FBOs, school administrators and the security personnel are on board to eliminate this spurge, which has plagued our communities, by extension our society.
The second and final Resolve Clause is conspicuous, in that it is calling on the President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the allegations and to determine the extent of trafficking in person with recommendations for the suppression and abolition of the unlawful trade. With this being implemented the course of actions, once the recommendations are made and the course of actions taken, the Nation will wait in anticipation to properly assess what was done by such commission and compare its findings with the report coming out from the United States Department of State.
In conclusion, I commend the Hon. Member and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. David Granger for initiating such a motion. Due to the prevalence of trafficking in person in our society, I therefore call on each Hon. Member of August House, to lend their support to the motion since it is merely to assist and protect the well-being of our citizens. Mdm. Deputy Speaker thank you very much. [Applause]